Bam Adebayo caught in middle on two fronts

Based on his Instagram vacation postings, Bam Adebayo may not have bounced a ball this past week.

And yet it feels as if the Miami Heat’s All-Star big man has been getting bounced around for days.

First it was Team USA failing to medal at the World Cup in the Philippines. Then it was the NBA Board of Governors adopting a Player Participation Policy.

Neither of the two matters came with Adebayo’s name attached.

And yet, somehow, he stands caught in the fallout.

In the wake of Team USA failing to medal at the World Cup for the second successive time, the call has been put out to align the best of the NBA to set things right at next summer’s Paris Olympics. However, many of those calls are ignoring Adebayo, who served as a fulcrum in the middle for Team USA’s 2021 Olympic gold at the Tokyo Games.

Then, two days after Team USA’s loss to Canada for World Cup bronze, the NBA announced new, strict edicts when it comes to sitting out star players, with that delineation including all players who have made an All-Star game or All-NBA team that past three years.

The Heat have two such players. One is young, robust, ready-and-willing 26-year-old Adebayo. The other is 34-year-old (as of this past Thursday) and strategic-about-scheduling Jimmy Butler.

In both cases, it leaves arguably the Heat’s ultimate team player caught in the middle.

Last week, I chronicled how the lack of height contributed to Team USA’s demise at the World Cup.

In light of the loss came the clarion call for something bigger and better. That again likely will have USA Basketball chasing Joel Embiid, as he continues to decide between representing France or the United States with his dual citizenship. It also had various pundits signaling for similar urging for a USA Basketball return by Anthony Davis, as well as an acceptance that Draymond Green’s relationship with Steve Kerr likely will have the Golden State Warriors coach seeking to coach his versatile big man when Kerr returns to lead Team USA in Paris.

As for Adebayo, who already has shown with the Heat the ability to play as the ultimate complementary piece, be it with Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic, Tyler Herro or Butler — or the members of the 2021 U.S. Olympic team, he somehow has become an afterthought.

In some eyes, it’s as if Adebayo has turned into Walker Kessler (arguably the lone true center on the Team USA World Cup roster).

Based on how Adebayo complemented in Tokyo to help Gregg Popovich exit with gold, it would seem loyalty should count for something, especially loyalty to proven gold-level success.

Which brings us to Loyalty 2.0, with the league’s hastily devised Player Participation Policy.

For the Heat, many of the rules come down to a two-man game, since Adebayo and Butler are the lone players currently on the roster (Damian Lillard could be a third) who meet the “star” player delineation.

Among the regulations are that multiple “star” players cannot be held out for rest or load management in the same game, that star players cannot summarily be held out of back-to-back games, and that star players, if they require rest, make those absences in home games.

Then consider that Butler has not appeared in more than 65 games in any of the last six seasons, dating to his time with the Chicago Bulls, and has appeared in 58 or fewer in four of the last five seasons.

For his part, Adebayo appeared in 75 games last season. Save for his thumb surgery in 2021-22, there have been at least 64 games played in every season, including all 82 in 2018-19 and all but one in the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season.

So who likely will be asked to step forward when Butler stands down?

The same player who often is called on for additional media sessions when Butler opts to bypass those assignments.

The same player who consistently covers for the defensive shortcomings of teammates — domestically and internationally.

The same player whose selflessness delivered NBA Finals chemistry to the Heat and gold-medal chemistry to USA Basketball.

In his six seasons, Bam Adebayo has shown he can do it all.

That should be what counts for USA Basketball.

And what shouldn’t count against him during the regular season on a team with a 34-year-old leading man.


END GAME: As the Milwaukee Bucks prepare to regroup from last season’s opening-round playoff loss to the Heat, forward Khris Middleton said on J.J. Redick‘s podcast this past week that credit deserved to be given where due. “Credit to them. We just weren’t good enough,” Middleton said. “And Miami, they were great, they were well prepared. They played hard.” Middleton added: “They deserved to win that series and we didn’t, and it’s just as simple as that.” The Heat closed out the best-of-seven series with a dramatic Game 5 victory in Milwaukee, a game the Heat sent into overtime with a dramatic pass to Butler directly at the rim for a tying basket with five-tenths of a second to play. “Hell of a play. Hell of a catch. Hell of a finish. Hell of a pass,” Middleton said. “For us, just poor execution.” Of Butler’s dominance in that series, Middleton said there was internal discussion of more double teams instead of the straight-up defense by Jrue Holiday on Butler. “That’s one thing we talked about, just didn’t do it,” he said. “I think the only thing we could have done differently to maybe change the outcome of the way Jimmy played was to double-team him. We didn’t do it. That’s the decision we made as a team, as a group. And we’ve got to live with the result.” Butler averaged 37.6 points in the five games.

STILL STOKED: Nearly two years removed from his run-in with Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic while a member of the Heat, Markieff Morris took time on Showtime’s All That Smoke podcast with Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson to reflect on the incident that left him sidelined for 58 games due to whiplash in 2021-22 and fined $50,000 by the NBA. And yes, Morris, who is expected to sign with the Dallas Mavericks, is still salty. “Sucker shot,” Morris said of the blow absorbed from Jokic, hinting at retribution by adding, “He’s gonna get his, though.” Morris, who spent last season with the Brooklyn Nets, confirmed what had been speculated during his Heat tenure, that it was the Heat who erred on the side of caution with his return. “They were just trying to protect me from, you know, against me from myself,” he said. “But I was cleared to play like two weeks after that. They just held me out.”

ART APPRECIATION: Heat forward Kevin Love has been selected to curate the latest edition of Sotheby’s Contemporary Curated live auction, which will take place Sept. 28 at Sotheby’s New York. Love’s selection includes a mix of photography, sculpture and paintings, from expressionism and figuration to abstraction and action painting. Of his selections, Love said, “I’m fascinated by artists’ processes and what makes them tick — their intent and their impact. What I look for is when a piece has a major storytelling component and drives something out of me that I didn’t even know existed.” Love, 35, signed a two-year, $7.9 million in July to return to the Heat, with the second year a player option. Previous curators selected by Sotheby’s include Robert Pattinson, Kelly Rowland, Swizz Beatz, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Aoki, Kim Jones and Cynthia Erivo.

IN PROGRESS: Among the edicts in the NBA’s new Player Participation Policy is an emphasis on the new In-Season Tournament, which will add an 83rd regular-season game to two teams’ schedules. But Commissioner Adam Silver at the Board of Governors meeting acknowledged the tournament, scheduled to conclude the week of Dec. 3, is somewhat of a work in progress. “As most new things we’ve tried in this league,” he said, “that we iterate as we go. My sense is we’re very happy where it stands right now — pool play, knockout round, et cetera, in terms of the format. I’m sure we’re going to learn a lot once it starts. So I wouldn’t be surprised if, when we go through it, we make a decision to make a few changes along the way.”


33-to-1. Odds offered by BetOnLine that Heat will be the first team fined by the NBA for violating the league’s new player-participation program for sitting out healthy star players. That actually has the Heat eighth on the list, with the Los Angeles Clippers with the shortest odds, at 2-to-1. The bookmaker also has the Heat listed at 12-to-1 for incurring the most such fines, with the Clippers also topping that list, a 3-to-2.

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Author : Ira Winderman

Publish date : 2023-09-16 13:31:41

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